Festive reads: 6 MUST-READ books based on Mahabharata

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Updated: Oct 26, 2019 11:41 AM

If you love reading books, you probably know the festive season calls for 'festive' reads!

fiction, books, publishing, Ahalya's awakening, Karna, Draupadi, Gandhari, Mahabharata, Lord KrishnaWhile there are many more books inspired from the Mahabharata, here are my favourite book picks in an alphabetical order: (IE photo)

If you love reading books, you probably know the festive season calls for ‘festive’ reads! Starting from October, you can sense that the festive season is in full swing. A slight winter chill serves as a gentle reminder of winters as most homes deck up in advance to welcome the joyous spirit of Diwali. It’s the kind of season when a reader would long to curl up with books that read differently and take you back in time. Or just cozy up with warm coffee while reading quietly in a cafe.

While there are many more books inspired from the Mahabharata, here are my favourite book picks in an alphabetical order:

Ahalya’s Awakening: Kavita Kane’s latest book smashes all myths that you have heard about Ahalya! Published by Westland, the story of the stunningly beautiful and highly intelligent princess called Ahalya is sure to baffle those who have heard about the woman, who is known as ‘a woman cursed to be a rock’. The popular myth stands smashed in this unusual and imaginative portrayal of a young princess, whose aspiration was not to live the life of a Queen even when it is offered to her several times by a smitten Indra, but to choose the life of love, austerity and knowledge with the man of her dreams – Rishi Gautam.

All Lies, says Krishna: Published by Fingerprint Publishing and written by J. Rajasekharan Nair, the narrative is unusual, gripping and eloquent in its philosophical viewpoint about every sequence of the Mahabharata. What is most striking is that the story is a conversation between Krishna, in his final moments, with his beloved Radha. The intimacy of their conversations brings to life a never-before-told version of Lord Krishna’s viewpoint of every incident in the Mahabharata. An imaginative work of fiction, it also forces us to re-examine and probe the popular version in an almost poetic and philosophical way.

Draupadi: Traversing through the various phases of Draupadi’s life, Saiswaroopa’s narrative takes you through a journey of a fierce, strongly independent woman who tackles the strange situations in her life with remarkable courage and conviction. Published by Rupa Publications, those who enjoy reading the Mahabharata should definitely not miss this must-read story!

Karna: The Great Warrior: Written by Ranjit Desai and translated from the Marathi by Vikrant Pande. What makes Karna a much loved tragic hero? Dive into the depths of his mind and what you will discover is not battle strategies but a deeply vulnerable and a compassionate individual who believes in giving and not getting and knows that it is the only way to live a human life, however skewed his choices had been. A striking aspect of the narrative pertains to the close friendship that Karna had shared with Krishna and what turns them apart as a sequence of events play out on the battlefield. Their friendship is tested and there’s no turning back for either of them or anyone else.

Shakuntala – The Woman Wronged: Utkarsh Patel’s narrative explores the life of Shakuntala, the beautiful daughter of Rishi Vishwamitra and apsara Menaka. Inhering the traits of two highly eminent, powerful parents, Shakuntala’s courage, fearlessness and conviction is portrayed in a way that challenges Kalidasa’s fictionalized theatrical rendition that portrayed her as a helpless damsel in distress. Published by Rupa Publications, this novel takes you through Shakuntala’s childhood, her longing for her parents while growing up in the hermitage of her adoptive father – Rishi, and how as a strong and independent woman, she does not surrender to the authority of any man, not even the king of Hastinapur. A must-read tale for every reader who enjoys reading about the strong yet under-rated women protagonists from the Mahabharata!

The Curse of Gandhari: Published by Bloomsbury and written by Aditi Banerjee, this book explores Gandhari’s story through the entire Mahabharata. While she remains a significant presence in the Mahabharata, her omissions and commissions, as a queen, a wife and a mother, are meticulously probed, thereby revealing new insights into the protagonist we know so little about. Women in the Mahabharata have often been misunderstood as passive and non-reactive, which now stands rightfully challenged through creative retelling and interpretation of their choices. This narrative also reveals to us that during that time each woman, possessing a strong individuality and an equally strong viewpoint, had the complete freedom to do what they wanted to do – their choices were independent of the positions of power their families held.

READ: Thanjavur’s Saraswathi Mahal Library: India’s most remarkable library turns 100 years old!

These festive reads are not only unusual in their timeless retelling of India’s most loved stories. These storytellers bring to life, just as Rebecca Soloniy’s famous letter, stated, “some books are wings…some are horses that run away with you. Some are parties to which you are invited…some long books are journeys, and at the end, you are not the same person you were at the beginning…….”

In the same letter, she also writes, “Books gave me refuge…Or I built refuge out of them. They can be doorways and ships and fortresses for anyone who loves them.”

As you welcome the season’s festive vibes, it’s time to cozy up to books and enjoy the doorways they transport you through to unexplored realms.

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